It does not always go as expected, when political initiatives go from idea to roll-out, but MindLab's new process model, practice check, makes it possible in just a few days to get closer to how political initiatives work in practice.
There can be a great distance from the parliament’s visions of getting more citizens employed, to the job center workers who have to make it happen in practice. New initiatives always land in a hilly landscape of existing legislation, administration and professional assessments.
MindLab has worked with The Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment for the past six months to develop a model for a so-called practice check. The model can systematically, efficiently and quickly provide a snapshot of how the agency’s actions are interpreted and translated into practice by citizens, municipalities, unemployment funds and job centers. It can quickly identify whether employees have understood the intentions of an initiative or whether the initiative creates the intended value among the citizens.
With such a mapping, it is far easier for The Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment to clarify how the approach should be adjusted so it best can fulfil the political intentions while considering the everyday life and realities of the front staff.
The practice check does not provide a quantitative status overview, but a deep, nuanced knowledge that gives a particular insight into the practice. The distinctive feature of the process model is, that it is designed to fit into public sector cases – in all phases from implementation to evaluation.
Align expectations and reality
The Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment and MindLab completed a total of three practice checks that, on the one hand, were intended to test the model, and on the other hand, to build capacity among the agency’s employees to carry out practice checks in the future without the participation of MindLab.
One practice check was about the flex job scheme, where the municipalities conveyed reports of rules that were difficult to work with. The Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment and MindLab conducted qualitative interviews in six municipalities with case managers, team leaders and job center managers to identify exactly where the problems were.
In the short run, a guide will be prepared for the case managers. In the long run, they will continue working with a possible change of the rules, so they better match the reality of case workers and thus better support the intention of the reform. All executed in just three days.
The project is an example of how a practice check can play into the evaluation and improvement phase of a policy process. However, a practice check can be performed at all stages of a policy or implementation phase, and depending on resources and the size of the problem, you can use a 2-, 3- or 4-day model.